Monday, December 28, 2009
Then I was told by some people that it is improper etiquette to do so.
So I stopped responding to the comments.
But lately I have been reading other blogs and I have noticed that some bloggers respond to comments.
I actually think it is a good thing to respond to comments. It shows that I am reading what my readers have to say. And it creates a dialogue. I didn't start writing this just to be heard. I started to write so that maybe I can make a difference.
So from now on, I will try my best to respond to comments. Obviously, not every comment would need a response.
Let's just play it be ear and see how it goes.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
On Tuesday night, December 22nd, Yeshiva University and The Wurzweiler School of Social Work hosted a symposium titled "Being Gay in the Orthodox World." It was the largest turnout which the school of Social Work ever had. Some estimates were as high as 800, with many more clamoring to get into the hall.
The event itself was important. It proves that Yeshiva University is truly an institute of higher learning in that it has allowed controversial issues to be made public and debated in a calm and respectful manner. The institution deserves a tremendous amount of credit and respect for its courage.
But there is something greater than the event itself. It took a tremendous amount of courage for those four young men to stand before the entire world and tell their story. In spite of the fact that Rabbi Blau, the symposium's moderator, asked that the event not be recorded or transcribed, within 24 hours, there was a written transcript and a video of the event.
What a way to be outed!
I have a friend who is a YU grad and a practicing rabbi. I asked him what he thought of the event. This is what he wrote to me....
"The importance of the panel was, it is now, in some form, publically acknowledged there are gays at YU and other places and at least in that forum, they want people to know their struggle. It was gutsy to go public for the panelists and Rabbi Blau. All they asked for was the recognition of the struggle, and that they want to be part of and certainly, practice in, the Orthodox community. And if their voices open up doors for others, and relieve needless suffering among parents and kids, then something major was accomplished.
It may be hard for the parents, but they do not have to hide. Their children's story have been told.
The challenge is the real anguish people have endured in coming out. I do not know how to balance it, but it's better for everyone to be public and not underground. And make some room for those who love Judaism, are committed to it, and also just want to be respected for who they are and not as pariahs."
We heard about the symposium the day after it took place. A woman came into my wife's store and told her about the event. This woman had never been in the store before, but she had heard from her daughter that our son is gay.
Just before I started drafting this particular post, I emailed my son and asked him what he has heard about the symposium. He said he is receiving emails from people who heard about the symposium and want to know how to deal with telling their parents.
Halakha is not the issue here.
The issue is how to find a place in the community for people who want to be in the community. The fact that my son is being asked how to cope and deal with parents is a sign that these "kids" still want to be "our" kids. They don't want to be pushed away or shunned by their parents. All they want is to be understood and loved.
Brandeis was correct.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
"Come congressmen, senators throughout the land and don't criticize what you don't understand" - Bob Dylan
I will provide you with two links to the event. One is a link to a blog in which the author, Chana, claims that she has written a transcript of the event. We might not have known whether the transcript was accurate or not. But when you connect to the second link, you will have the opportunity the watch a video of the event.
Before the panelist came on to speak, Rabbi Blau specifically asked that recordings and videos not be taken for fear that snippets be used out of context.
You be the judge.
I will comment some more on this symposium in the near future.
In the meantime....
Here are the links.........
Thursday, November 26, 2009
A SON'S SECRET. A FATHER'S LOVE.
Brian Burke loves telling stories about his kids, all six of them. Of his son Brendan, he in particular loves telling one from years ago when the boy was just 3 and the family went to Florida.
"So we're on the bus going to get our rental car and Brendan's going from family to family, introducing himself, saying we're from Vancouver and is this their first time in Florida?" Burke recalled Tuesday, laughing at the memory.
"It was like he was running for mayor. But that's him. He's special. People trust him immediately. He has a very sweet side that I envy because I don't have it.
"I just wish every parent could experience having a child like him."
Brendan's now 20, set to turn 21 next month, and the hockey world learned Tuesday that he's gay through a powerful and poignant story published online on ESPN.com, written by writer/broadcaster John Buccigross, a friend of the Burke family.
Burke, the president and general manager of the Maple Leafs and one of the best-known figures in all of hockey, learned of his son's sexual orientation at Christmas 2007. He knew ahead of time that his son, a student at the University of Miami (Ohio) and a student worker on the school's highly regarded hockey team, had spoken to Buccigross and that a story was to be released Tuesday afternoon.
"The feedback has been awesome," Burke said Tuesday, about three hours after the story was first posted. "My emails have been off the charts."
At the same time, however, Burke believes there will be those who won't embrace the family love inherent in his acceptance of his son's orientation or of Brendan's decision to go public with his sexuality. Burke remembered that when he was in California in November to vote in the U.S. presidential election – he voted for Barack Obama – he was aggressively confronted by anti-gay activists protesting a same-sex marriage proposition on the California ballot.
"I told them to (expletive) get lost," said Burke, who also voted for the proposition. "But over the next two weeks, yeah, I expect to get some hate mail over today's story. There is going to be a backlash. All I care about is if Brendan is prepared for it. It takes jam to do what he's done."
Brendan Burke, a former goalie, analyzes video and does stats for the Miami team, currently ranked No. 1 in the NCAA. The team's coach, Enrico Blasi, and the rest of the team first learned of Brendan's secret after the Frozen Four last spring.
"I think having Brendan as part of our program has been a blessing," Blasi told ESPN.com. "We are much more aware of what you say and how you say it."
Brendan isn't sure of his future plans, but seeing as how his older brother, Patrick, is a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, a career in hockey is certainly an option. That said, there are no openly gay individuals working in hockey operations in any of the major pro or amateur leagues.
"Honestly, as a father, I can say I would rather it was some other kid blazing this trail," said Brian Burke, himself one of 10 children. "But only because of the negativism that may come of it. I support Brendan completely.
"But I guess I wish maybe he was second."
In the ESPN.com piece, Brendan Burke indicated he quit high school hockey because of what he perceived to be overt homophobia in the dressing room. He said the support of not only his family but also of Miami's hockey organization made his decision to come out easier.
"Imagine if I was in the opposite situation, with a family that wouldn't accept me, working for a sports team where I knew I couldn't come out because I'd be fired or ostracized," Brendan Burke told ESPN.com.
"People in that situation deserve to know that they can feel safe, that sports isn't all homophobic and that there are plenty of people in sports who accept people for who they are."
His father understands that because of his reputation as a hard-nosed, black-and-blue executive who extols the virtues of fighting in hockey, this story will ring even more powerfully to many parents and families.
"I've got six kids, I drive a truck, I own a shotgun and I chew tobacco, so sure, this adds a different dimension," he said. "This isn't about me and it isn't about the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's about a young man who has done something that takes a lot of courage.
"But if my acceptance can turn into more acceptance on the part of other people, that's great."
Part of that acceptance was calling his son and inviting him to come to Toronto to experience this year's Gay Pride Parade.
"A few people recognized me and said hello," said Burke. "I would have marched in it if I'd known more about it. I'll march next year if I'm asked."
All to demonstrate a father's love of a son who no longer has to live a secret.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Gay Question:
Time for Modern Orthodoxy to Take Off the Blindfold
Published: Sunday, November 1, 2009
Updated: Sunday, November 8, 2009
The scientific mentality and socially liberal outlook of our times has tried the viability of many ancient religious doctrines. In our Modern Orthodox community, we proudly (and hopefully modestly) maintain that our religious beliefs don't run counter to our rational tendencies. Science enriches and adorns our religious lives. Our halachic worldview is imbued with true morality. Discrepancies between modern moral standards and the Torah's edicts are explainable, and don't truly oppose the moral backbone of contemporary society. However, one pressing issue facing the modern world, one which has applied uncomfortable pressure to the Orthodox world, has been shamefully swept under the rug. The moral and religious dilemma that this issue poses has not yet been dealt with in an adequate fashion. That issue is homosexuality.
The number of openly gay individuals in the secular community overwhelmingly outweighs the number of openly gay individuals in our Orthodox community. If we assume that sexuality is not a matter of choice (the most accepted approach today) then we are confronted with an unsettling question: Is it really possible that the Orthodox world breeds fewer people wrought with the inner conflict of sexual identity? Probably not. It seems, rather, that Orthodox individuals grappling to balance their sexual desires, religious values, and social pressures are either forced into hidden lives of suffering or are driven from the derech of Orthodox life altogether in search of happiness elsewhere. Of those who stay in the Orthodox fold, many fall into marriages racked with complications, while others remain single, living bitter lives of quiet desperation. Of those who fall away from Orthodoxy, many are estranged from their families and friends, harboring a deep resentment for the Orthodox community's failure to help them and their loved ones with a painful issue. Allowing such heartache to continue in our midst without open and honest discussion of this issue amongst rabbinical leaders and laymen is a failure to engage in the obligation of tikkun olam and a callous neglect of individual suffering.
I have firsthand experience with the tribulation and confusion that mark the life of an Orthodox, gay individual. I am a member of the Mazer Yeshiva Program in my first year in YU, and I am gay. At age eleven I knew I was gay; it was a realization marked by the same innocence of a fifth grader who has a crush on a pretty girl in class. Since the age of fourteen, I have known that I would eventually have to face unpleasant truths in dealing with my supposedly divergent identities. I am comfortable with myself, but uncertain of the best way to tackle the next few years of my life. I have no long-term plan.
It is a constant struggle to determine what the Creator wants from me. Do I remain in the closet and single for the rest of my life? That doesn't sit well with me. Should I come out and remain single? Should I look for a relationship with a guy with whom I will have no physical contact? Is that possible? Will I someday unceremoniously collapse from the pressure and end up not frum but in a fulfilling relationship? These questions race through my mind in a perpetual cycle every day of my life. The thought of telling my family that I am gay – and probably incapable of getting married and having children – is one that douses me with waves of paralyzing fear. How does anyone bring heartbreak to unsuspecting loved ones ill-equipped to cope with the issue at hand? How does a family cope with the homosexuality of a loved one in a community where the issue is stigmatized and worthy only of hushed, whispered discussions? My situation is not unique. The questions I confront and the distress my family would face if I let them in on my secret are only the beginning of the struggle for all Orthodox, gay individuals.
Ultimately, I am not just writing to raise awareness and lambaste our collective treatment of the issue. I am writing with a rough proposal. Last year, a heart-wrenching testimony was published anonymously in Kol Hamevaser (II:4) by another gay Yeshiva University student. The author highlighted both the existence of gays in the Orthodox world, and the inconspicuous nature of their presence amongst the most frum crowds. He thought that marriage was the most preferable, though seemingly evasive, solution to his problem. Although I salute his strength and conviction, and firmly align myself with his call to awaken others to our existence, I disagree with several facets of his approach. First, the option of marriage for a gay individual is one which demands wary and cautious endorsement. I am cynical about the possibility for success in a heterosexual marriage tainted by homosexual tendencies. The fact that the Orthodox community has historically adopted this approach is problematic. Do we really want to encourage people to enter sexually dysfunctional marriages? Second, I think that the author failed to pressure the Orthodox community to take concrete action in addressing the needs of all individuals faced with the challenge of being gay.
I want to suggest a few baby steps we can take towards helping people like me. The first step we must take towards helping gay men and women in our communities is waking up our leaders. The time has come for our rabbinic leadership to realize that gays are as common in the Jewish community as they are in the secular community. If the rabbinic leadership shuts their eyes and ears, they will not make gays disappear. They will not make me disappear. It is an immature and destructive way to deal with a real problem. I urge the rebbeim of Yeshiva University and other rabbinic leaders to recognize our existence, and to take a proactive role in organizing open discussion of the issue of homosexuality. The attitude of cavalier indifference must come to an end in our community.
This will pave the way for the second, and most important, step I am proposing. We need to eliminate the stigma. In the secular world, interacting with gays and discussing gay issues has become mainstream. I think we need to follow that example. That is not to suggest that we need to accept or embrace homosexual behavior. But we need to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and open discussion. If we sincerely work towards this objective, we will create an environment where those confronted with this issue will feel comfortable expressing themselves. Then, we can weave support networks focused on finding comfortable solutions for affected individuals and families. This would be following the model that we embrace for all other communal problems.
The last suggestion I want to make is the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) on campus. I am, admittedly, a bit skeptical about this last suggestion, but I am curious of the results. GSAs are prevalent on campuses across the country. They are not only found on college campuses, but in high schools and middle schools as well. They promote the comfort of gay members of the school and nurture a sensitive, accepting environment. GSAs also create a forum for discussion of gay issues and concerns. The beauty of a GSA is that it can be started by a straight activist. In fact, all the members can be straight. On our campus, in particular, if someone had the guts to start one, and many people joined it, gays would feel comfortable joining under the veil of being straight. A GSA could become the mainspring in provoking progress on our treatment of homosexuality.Hopefully, I have drawn some ears and prodded some hearts in Yeshiva University and the Modern Orthodox community at large. Properly dealing with homosexuality in our community will accomplish more than meets the eye. We would be performing a tremendous act of chessed for countless suffering individuals, both in the present and in the future. We would decrease the number of gay individuals that fall away from Orthodox life because they don't see futures for themselves in our communities. We will alleviate the pain of families who have nowhere to turn in dealing with homosexuality. And, finally, we would be true to our own Modern Orthodox values. By honestly approaching the realities we are confronted with and finding ways for our divinely dictated halachic system to solve the issues at hand, we defend the integrity of our religious beliefs. Through an honest and intensive search for the best solution to the gay question we can end a dishonorable period of apathy, and infuse Torah life with fresh credibility and esteem.
Friday, August 28, 2009
We were visiting my son this week. As he and I were standing in line in a restaurant on 33rd Street, waiting to pay for some take-out, I was asking him some questions about his relationships and those of his friends.
I then asked "are Moishie and Berl dating?"
Being a little hard of hearing, I may have spoken a bit too loud.
The gentleman in front of us turned around, and with a look of utter astonishment looked us up and down, and left the line shaking his head.
I burst out laughing. This was my first experience.
"Something appealing, something appalling, something for everyone: a comedy tonight."
Sunday, August 9, 2009
"The Awesome, Who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow and befriends the stranger..." Devarim10:17
At the kiddush, I went over to the rabbi and told him how much I liked what he said.
Then I told him that I have an issue that I would like to discuss with him.
I stated that when a Palestinian storms a yeshiva and kills young men, we say tehillim and kel maaleh rachamim and hold rallies all over the city.
When a Charedi storms a youth center which happens to be a refuge for gay kids, not a word is spoken in synagogue, not a prayer is made for the wounded or killed, no kel maaleh rachamim is chanted, no tehillim are read.
His response to me was that he was on vacation last weekend without an internet connection so he did not hear anything about it.
I said that his response saddens me even more because if it was deemed a terrorist attack then even without an internet connection, he would have heard the news.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
My son is currently in Israel and he sent his family a short email stating that he is ok and he was not in Tel Aviv during the shooting.
Shabbat ended late. We had to get up very early the next morning to catch a plane to attend a family simcha and all we received was this quick and cryptic note on my blackberry as we were sitting on board the plane.
We weren't aware what had transpired in Tel Aviv.
Later on, as we were sitting at a table with my in-laws and my wife's siblings, all of whom don't know that our son is gay (or so we think), my wife asked if anyone heard what happened in Israel because "we received an email from our son that he wasn't there and he is ok."
My brother-in-law said that there was a shooting at a gay bar in Tel Aviv and everyone looked at us with an expression of "why would he be at a gay bar in Tel Aviv?"
Thursday, July 9, 2009
It has been several months since I have posted to my blog. I apologize. Allow me to explain.
Firstly, I have been too busy to write because of the economy. I've been working long days and I have not had the time to devote to this important endeavor.
Secondly, and more significantly, I have not written lately because our lives have become more normal as we have all adjusted.
Frankly, I have been unwilling to write for fear of boring my readers.
So here is an update as to what has been going on.
The last time I wrote about my family was during Sukkoth. Since then, we spent two family vacations together. We spent winter vacation in Florida and for Pesach, we were all together in our home. During both "family" times, everyone, the parents and the siblings were calm and quite content. We had many discussions around the table ranging from family issues, politics, to halkha.
We laughed, we cried. We went through the whole range of emotions.
All is not as it should be, but we are moving forward, strong in the knowledge that our children are making adjustments in their lives.
A few things for us to ponder.............
My son approached us while we were in Florida with the proposition that since we would probably not be making him a large wedding, would we be amenable to the idea of helping him pay for a surrogate birth. He wants to have a family. My wife responded to him that just as she would be there to help our daughters after they give birth to their children she hopes to be able to do the same for him after he brings his baby home.
So, we are moving forward, hoping for the best.
We still face painful days, but we get through them. Recently, someone came into my wife's shop and told her that everyone in our community now knows that our son is gay.
So he is out.
This person continued the conversation by telling my wife what a wonderful person our son is and that she understands what we are going through because her brother is gay. The unfortunate thing is that he could never adjust to his reality and has lived a life hidden and depressed.
Not for us.
PS. The quote? There is a scandal in our community and it centers around our rabbi. The same person who told us that people should not judge our son. The quote is what he said to the congregation.
Friday, March 13, 2009
I did find it interesting, but also quite painful to read.
It is anonymously written by a gay student at Yeshiva University. It articulates the struggle he is facing. As a parent of a gay child, it is an important article to read, to gain an understanding of the trials our children face and the loneliness our children feel, on a daily basis.
A Burning Fire and a River of Tears: One Day in My Shoes
Posted: 2/6/09Editor’s note: This article was submitted anonymously to protect the student’s identity and allow him to discuss the topic openly.
I wake up to a buzzing alarm clock signaling the arrival of another day and head out to daven. I concentrate as hard as I can and ask Hashem for help to face another day. I am the typical YU student. I go to morning seder, lunch, shiur, and then my secular classes. I am still the typical YU student. I sit down for supper, go to night seder, and then to Ma’ariv. Am I really the typical YU student? I spend my nights studying for the next day of classes; I work hard for my grades, but still find some time to spend with my friends. But as I get ready to put my head down for the night, exhausted from a trying day, I know that I am not the typical YU student; Hashem has given me the challenge of challenges, a challenge that leaves me muffling my cries on a tear-stained pillow as I slowly fall asleep.
Each of us has a challenge in the world, a roadblock on the highway of life that challenges us to become the best we can be. We are given these tests to help shape our character and to become masters of our desires, whatever they are. Whether the test is keeping Shabbat or learning afternoon seder between classes, we are all given a test in life. My own challenge keeps me up at night, preoccupies my thoughts during the day, and leaves me feeling like I am walking down a somber road in a lonely world: I am a religious Jew, living in the observant Jewish world, faced with the challenge of being a homosexual.
The Torah in two places[i] tells us that the act of homosexuality is an abomination, and under no circumstance is one to perform this act, even when faced with death as the only alternative. This is because the act of homosexuality is likened to that of bestiality and adultery and is looked upon in the most severe of manners. There is little reference otherwise to homosexuality in the Torah and Talmud, although at the end of Masechet Kiddushin[ii] we are told that two men are prohibited from sleeping under the same blanket for fear of possible homosexual relations taking place. The Gemara there, however, states that this ruling no longer applies, as such acts were practically unheard-of during that era. Little other halachic information is available from these early sources on this topic, although some stories are related in the Gemara and several biblical Midrashim.
Before homosexuality started to become an acceptable alternative lifestyle in modern society, as is so visibly flaunted today, the idea of permitting homosexuality within Judaism was unheard-of. Despite the fact that homosexuality is clearly labeled by the Torah as an abomination, some people have, within the last several years, started making arguments to try to find loopholes for its permissibility. Homosexuality is labeled by the Torah as an abomination and there are no infallible arguments against it. “How can Hashem expect us to live our lives as celibates, as two consenting adults we should be allowed to live our lives the way we want in order to find true happiness” is often an argument put forth to the Jewish community. ““Love,” , “fulfillment,” “exploitative,” “meaningful”- the list itself sounds like a lexicon of emotionally charged terms drawn at random from the disparate sources of both Christian and psychologically-oriented agnostic circles?[iii] wrote Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm in the nineteen seventies, and went in depth to prove that these arguments would permit any sexual relationships in today’s society, removing all sexual morality from today’s society.
As a religious Jew, I have always put Torah values at the center of my beliefs. Never would I dream of trying to say that homosexuality is permissible; I know that there is something intrinsically wrong with such an act. That is certainly not to say, however, that it is not a challenge for me. Attraction, whether to a man or to a woman, is not something that one can control. The fact that I have certain desires – which I would purge from my life in a second if I had the ability – is something that I cannot change. They leave me with feelings of solitude, despair, depression, and, alas, excitement.
Am I an abomination? Does Hashem look at me with disgust and loathing, as I feel so many people would if my struggle be known, as so many people do look at “open” religious Jewish homosexuals today? When one looks closely, the verse in Vayikra labels the homosexual act as an abomination – but only the act. The perpetrators are people, people who are challenged and who do not know how to control their desires – desires that so many of them pray they never had. British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks explains clearly that the Torah “does not condemn homosexual disposition, because the Torah does not speak about what we are, but what we do.”[iv]
However, within the Orthodox Jewish context, few people recognize this. While many today have corrupted general society, leaving it with the notion that once someone is gay, then they will eventually “come out” and live that “alternative lifestyle,” this is impossible for an Orthodox Jew to accept. As such, I have hidden throughout my lifetime – today I do and in high school I did. I hid in fear that I would be ostracized and excommunicated from the Jewish community. I stood alone as a frightened fifteen-year-old boy, not trying to discretely act on my desires, yet also unable to call out and ask for help to rid myself of them. I stood frightened and didn’t know where to turn. I always wanted to find a wife and raise a family as an Orthodox man. I did not know how I would ever be able to do that, but I knew, and still know, that that is the life I am destined to live. I knew that one day I would need to tell someone about my feelings, step out from my hidden world of shadows, and ask for help.
It took me five years to gain the courage to reach that petrifying moment. After many months of praying and introspecting, I eventually reached the point not where I wanted to tell someone, but where I was prepared to do so. That moment had been the most horrifying and dreaded thought in my mind for so many years. I had prepared for the worst possible outcome, no doubt because of Hollywood’s portrayal of the heroic homosexual being shunned by a once-loving family. I readied myself to be thrown away by a towering figure pointing out in the distance with anger and fury on his face – to watch my life disintegrate before my eyes, collapsing like a building whose structure finally gave out after years of pressure like, a house of cards falling from the force of a gust of wind. But through all this I never faltered in my determination to live a life committed to Judaism. I told myself that it did not matter what happened in my life and how anyone reacted; I was raised a frum Jew, which is my true life and real identity, and no matter what anyone said or did to me, nothing could weaken who I was.
I was not sure how my rebbe from yeshiva in Israel would react. I just expected to be sent home from the yeshivah in shame, looked upon like I was some sexual deviant. I told myself in my heart, however, that no matter how anyone reacted – even if I was told to leave my yeshivah and thrown out of my house – I was never going to act upon my desires, nor was I ever going to turn away from G-d I thank Hashem every day for the strengths He has given me. I thank Him for the rebbe He sent me, who, instead of rejecting me, stood by my side, helping me though the most awful time of my life . I thank Him for the stamina He gave me to fight a depression that nearly led me to commit suicide.
My path is unclear and even though I still stand alone, I stand armed with the will to live another day and fight to keep my beliefs alive. No matter the support I get, I stand on trial every day of my life. I do not know where my future will lead, nor how I can change my feelings. I live with a sense of frustration, knowing the goal I want to reach but lacking the tools to arrive there. What must I do to be able to marry a woman? What must I share with my future partner? How can I even bring myself to tell her this hidden secret? I do not know if it is fair to ask someone to live with me under these conditions, or whether I will truly be able to be happy in such a relationship. All I know is that I want to one day make marriage to a woman work – to love her and have her love me back. I want to watch her walk down to the chuppah in the most beautiful wedding dress, with tears of happiness and joy in her eyes, as I know there will be in mine. I know that I want to stand with her supporting her through the hard times that we will go through, and be there for her always. I see this vision in my future, but I have so many questions that have no answers.
I know that I have a goal that I hold onto every day, but I live trying to cope with an everlasting sense of guilt, even though I understand that these feelings are not my fault and that this is the way my life was divinely ordained to progress. I have read through so many different experimental ideas about the root of homosexual attractions. But to me, that is all they are – ideas, possibilities that I do not think can really help in ridding me of my challenge. In fact, I do not think that I will ever be able to fully rid myself of these feelings, even when I marry and raise a family. Such knowledge is endlessly frustrating. I know where my path will lead, but I do not know how to get there. I see hope at the end of the road, but the path to it is covered by a screen of smoke and fog.
And I still live in fear. I have told a handful of people about my challenge. The results have sometimes been incredibly painful. I have had to pull away from people I had once called friends because of pain and embarrassment. I have been forced to sever relationships with close friends because of their lack of understanding and because of the hurt and confusion I have caused them. I watch my friends begin to date and to marry and question what my future holds. Will I find someone to share my life with? Will I ever really be completely happy with my decision? Am I destined to live a life alone? I want to tell my friends, to cry out to them, but I know I cannot. I know that the path that has been laid before me is one of solitude.
Rabbi Dr. Lamm once wrote that “Judaism allows for no compromise in its abhorrence of sodomy, but encourages both compassion and efforts at rehabilitation.”[v] I have told you my story and have given you a glimpse at my challenge. I do not ask you to cry with me or accept me; I only ask you to realize that I am out there. Realize that not everyone who is challenged with homosexuality is parading and protesting for equal rights. I beg you to realize this, realize that I, too, am a frum Jew, trying to live a frum life like everyone else. I stand with you in the elevators of Belfer, Furst, Muss, Morg, and Rubin. I eat lunch at your table and sit with you in class; you call me a friend. And I am not one person; I am the courageous voice that has spoken for a group that lives isolated and in hiding.
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot 2:5 tells us to never judge someone before one has walked in his shoes. I have let you see a peek of the trial I will face for the rest of my life, and ask that you do not judge me; I ask you to understand me. I stand next to you, even if you will never know my identity and my challenge. There is a fire within me, which will always burn within me, urging me to fight and complete my destiny, which I must hide from the world. I stand next to you, even if you will never know my identity and my challenge. Many tears have flown from my heavy eyes and there will be many more. One day in my shoe, a trial that will last a lifetime.
[i] Vayikra 18:22 and 20:13
[ii] Kiddushin, 82a
[iii] Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, “Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality,” in Jewish Bioethics, ed. Fred Rosner and J. David Bleich (New York: Sanhedrin Press, 1979), 209
[iv] Forward to ‘Judaism and Homosexuality’ by Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, ix
[v] Lamm, 217.
© Copyright 2009 The Commentator
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I have not written anything for quite a while.
No excuses. But it's time to start writing again.
So let's begin with a little humor. Take a look at this movie trailer. My son sent it to me last night.
PS. If the link doesn't work go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J84NoBwOCWU
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
"They don't think of emotional attraction or social interaction or spiritual connectedness or deep-rooted psychological feelings."
Study: Family behavior key to health of gay youth
By LISA LEFF
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Young gay people whose parents or guardians responded negatively when they revealed their sexual orientation were more likely to attempt suicide, experience severe depression and use drugs than those whose families accepted the news, according to a new study.
The way in which parents or guardians respond to a youth's sexual orientation profoundly influences the child's mental health as an adult, say researchers at San Francisco State University, whose findings appear in Monday's journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Parents love their children and want the best for them," said lead researcher Caitlin Ryan, a social worker who directs the university's Family Acceptance Project. "Now that we have measured all these behaviors, we can see that some of them put youth at extremely high risk and others are wellness-promoting."
Among other findings, the study showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.
More significantly, Ryan said, ongoing work at San Francisco State suggests that parents who take even baby steps to respond with equanimity instead of rejection can dramatically improve a gay youth's mental health outlook.
One of the most startling findings was that being forbidden to associate with gay peers was as damaging as being physically beaten or verbally abused by their parents in terms of negative feedback, Ryan said.
In the two-part study, Ryan and her colleagues first interviewed 53 families with gay teenagers to identify 106 specific behaviors that could be considered "accepting" or "rejecting." For example, blaming a youth for being bullied at school, shielding him from other relatives or belittling her appearance for not conforming to social expectations fell into the rejecting category.
Next, they surveyed 224 white and Latino gay people between ages 21 and 25 to see which of the behaviors they had experienced growing up. The responses then were matched against the participants' recent histories of severe depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse and unsafe sexual behavior.
While the results might seem intuitive, Ryan said the study, funded by the California Endowment, was the first to establish a link between health problems in gay youths and their home environments.
She has used the information in workshops with parents and other caregivers who have strained relationships with their gay teenagers, and said many were alarmed enough to make immediate changes in their interactions.
Ryan recalled a teenage girl whose mother forced her to date a boy and sent her to live with her grandmother when she learned her daughter was a lesbian. After hearing about the connection between parental attitudes and suicide, the mother stopped arranging the dates with the boy and instead inquired about her daughter's girlfriend.
"She was really concerned," Ryan said. "She saw that her daughter had become increasingly withdrawn and that she was contributing to these feelings of isolation and sadness."
In her paper for the journal Pediatrics, Ryan recommends that medical professionals ask young patients how their families have reacted to their sexual orientations and tell parents that negative reactions may prove harmful even if well-intentioned.
Such conversations are necessary because young people have been coming out at younger ages. Consistent with other studies, the youths in Ryan's study were on average under 11 years old when they first experienced a same-sex attraction, were just over 14 when they realized they were gay and came out to their families before they had turned 16.
Doctors, in a misguided attempt to comfort parents, may tell them a child who isn't sexually active couldn't know if he were gay or not, Ryan said.
"When providers and adults and family members think of gay people, they think of sex. They don't think of emotional attraction or social interaction or spiritual connectedness or deep-rooted psychological feelings," she said.
Sten Vermund, a Vanderbilt University pediatrician who became interested in Ryan's work this summer when she presented her research at the international AIDS conference in Mexico City, agrees that doctors should be encouraged to talk with parents about responding to a child's sexual orientation in a supportive way.
"So many families of children who are gay, bisexual or transgender, particularly families of gay male youth, think that if they are tough on the kid and tell him how unsatisfactory his gay lifestyle is to the family, he will have it knocked out of him," Vermund said.
Vermund said he also was impressed by Ryan's finding that a little bit of familial acceptance could go a long way in increasing a child's chances for future happiness.
"The Southern Baptist doesn't have to become a Unitarian," he said. "Someone can still be uncomfortable with their child's sexual orientation, but if they are somewhat more accepting and do the best the can, they will do the youth a lot of good. That to me is an important message."
Something for all us parents to consider.
- The Family Acceptance Project,: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/